Some humans experience the fun, filth and fury of an orc gathering. This is a description of the gathering and does not detail and specific role playing events.
From a distance it looked like a plan filled with bushy terrain that stretched on towards the horizon. Details became clearer as they neared, movement could be discerned on the plain. Cresting the brow of a small hill, there was a sharp intake of breath as the vista before them came into view.
They had been looking past the low hill – more a high area on otherwise flat landscape than a true hill – regarding what could be seen on the following, distant incline. Before them, across could be loosely referred to as a valley, the land was blanketed wit a moving mass or orcs.
The orcs thronged like ants, moving apparently randomly amongst tents, fires, livestock and wagons. What few trees may have previously been resent on the plain had long since disappeared to be used for shelter or firewood.
The noise, smell and energy of the great orcish gathering washed over them as they neared. They noted that the odd human merchant had set up for business on the periphery, risking life and livelihood for the chance of trading with the orcs for their (often plundered) gold. They received looks and grunts of greeting or challenge as they entered the periphery and began to make their way into the gathering proper, but for the most part they were left alone. Any serious challenge to orc safety had been met and dealt with leagues away, before the gathering proper began. A small band of humans posed no threat to what appeared to be thousands of orcs. Any larger threat that may approach the gathering would have been dealt with the none too friendly orcs who had pulled patrol duty.
“No boasting rights may be claimed for killing at a gathering. Orcs adhere to a special truce at their gatherings. Humans at an orc gathering are the safest humans in all Gaia.” They repeated these words like a mantra, desperately calling upon whatever gods may be listening to uphold their truth.
Yet their sources appeared to be correct. While here they could still die at the hands or an orc, the changes of dieing at the hands of the same orc elsewhere were considerably higher. They watched the orcs fight, feast and fornicate with equal enthusiasm as they walked unmolested amongst those violent people.
Slowly they made their way inward, accepting the an ale here, or an offer to gamble or wrestle there, all the time learning more about orc culture and language. Hours spent here would teach them more about orcs than they could learn in years of pouring over dusty scrolls and tomes in great libraries of Chakar and Draskor.
Though most knew of, had met and spoke the language of the plentiful Darketa, or even the vicious, aloof Nar-Haaz, few knew of the Mâal. It was now that they marked members of this third nation of orcs, this sub species who hailed from the far south, making their home among the great southern peaks. The Mâal they saw looked at them in a way that chilled their human souls and reminded them just how precarious their situation was.
The wiry, mottle skinned Mâal sneered and spat at them and thought not verbalised, the looks on their faces threatened death. A drawn out painful death for sure if you were to become their prisoner a passing Darketa explained helpfully, laughing at their own joke. Fortunately most of the Mâal who were in attendance had congregated to the far southern side of the gathering and kept to themselves for the most part.
For that matter the Darketa and Nar-Haaz did not appear to socialise much with the Mâal. Darketa and Nar-Haaz also kept mostly to their own kind, but tended to mix better with each other when occasion permitted.
It started to rain. A steady summer downpour that continued into the night. Filth that had lain on the ground or in shallow trenches washed together into rivulets as the rain cleansed the field. Rivulets fed streams that became choked with filth which they disgorged into bigger streams and rivers which all headed west, down an indiscernible gradient and would eventually empty into the Sylmar river. River fish choked on water fouled with the effluent of twenty thousand orcs, but as the rain continued to fall and the cess trenches washed clear, fresh water entered the rivers and the fish breathed again.
Through the night and rain the orcs fought, fornicated and feasted. Bonfires spat and sizzled as all manner of beasts were roasted on them. A vast bonfire, ten times the size of any other was visible towards the centre of the gathering. They heard talks of the great beast roasting there: A dragon said some, a stoorwyrm said others. The tale of whom and how it was slain changed with each telling.
The orcs fought, feasted and fornicated. Their fighting was not usually lethal, and not always physical. They boasted and haggled, argued, wrestled and brawled in the mud. At times one would need to look twice to see if two orcs rolling in the mud were wrestling or fornicating. The concept of privacy and tents among orcs, although understood, were not always contextualised together. While an orc may use his tent to keep his armour and sword dry from the rain, or conclude a sneaky deal out of the eyes of his fellow orcs, he or she would fuck in public so as to make it easier to refresh their beer, boast of their prowess and speak to their mates at the same time.
As the night progressed and became an even more drunken orgy than the day had been most of them received sexual proposals from various orcs. Food was plentiful and willingly shared, with the smells of freshly roasted meat mingling with spicy stews bubbling in cauldrons and oneesha bread baking over low fires.
By morning the rain had slowed to a light drizzle. While masses of hung-over or still drunken orcs milled about, others could be seen oiling weapons and muscles. The few humans traders who had come to the gathering had long since departed with heavy purses and empty wagons. Slowly the populace began to make its way west, towards what appeared to be a small copse of trees still left standing. Beer still flowed. Spilled wine looted from Sylmar valley farmers ran in red rivulets between their feet as they joined the orcs making their way west, winding between tents, horses and comatose orcs.
Food was still plentiful and it was easy to slice a snag off of a cooling roast, or appropriate a mostly un-gnawed haunch or if not careful, find oneself eating a spicy mouth burning stew out of a scooped out hunk of hard oneesha bread – the consequences not fully understood until later.
The copse of trees was not what it had appeared to be from a distance. An orc made quadrant of raised earth was flanked on three sides by the “trees” which now that they were closer, could be seen to be a myriad of war banners on long poles. The western side of the quadrant which was furthest from them was empty of banners. The banner poles were made of various materials, though mostly wood some were of bone and some even of bronze and whale ivory. Each banner represented a specific clan, while each side of the square, barring the empty western side, represented a specific nation of orcs, Nar-Haaz on the north, Darketa on the east and Mâal on the south.
This was the square, the main reason for the orc gathering. The place where the three nations put down their weapons and met in peace to boast, affirm alliances and feuds, demonstrate skill at arms and make orc policy. The gathering was a rare occurrence, few orcs saw one, a very small number ever saw two.
They were of a select small group, daring, human and perhaps very stupid. They were of a fraction of a percentage of humans ever to behold the wonder of an orc gathering – in all its fun, filth and fury.
This article was originally published on VI April MMIX